Richard II (play)

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I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second is a play written by William Shakespeare around 1595 and based on the life of King Richard II of England. It is the first part of a tetralogy referred to by scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part I; Henry IV, Part II; and Henry V.

Act I

  • Old John of Gaunt, time-honour'd Lancaster.
    • King Richard, Scene I

  • In rage, deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.
    • King Richard, Scene I

  • That which in mean men we entitle patience,
    Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts.
    • Duchess of Gloucester, Scene II

  • The daintiest last, to make the end most sweet.
    • Bolingbroke, Scene III

  • Truth hath a quiet breast.
    • Norfolk, Scene III

  • King Richard: For thee remains a heavier doom,
    Which I with some unwillingness pronounce:
    The fly-slow hours shall not determinate
    The dateless limit of thy dear exile; —
    The hopeless word of — Never to return,
    Breathe I against thee, upon pain of life.
    Norfolk: A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege,
    And all unlook'd for from your highness' mouth:
    A dearer merit, not so deep a maim
    As to be cast forth in the common air
    Have I deserved at your highness' hands.
    The language I have learn'd these forty years,
    My native English, now I must forego:
    And now my tongue's use is to me no more
    Than an unstringed viol, or a harp;
    Or like a cunning instrument cas'd up,
    Or, being open, put into his hands
    That knows no touch to tune the harmony.
    Within my mouth you have engaol'd my tongue,
    Doubly porcullis'd with my teeth and lips;
    And dull, unfeeling, barren ignorance
    Is made my gaoler to attend on me.
    I am too old to fawn upon a nurse,
    Too far in years to be a pupil now;
    What is thy sentence then but speechless death
    Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?
    • Scene III

  • John of Gaunt: What is six winters? they are quickly gone.
    Bolingbroke: To men in joy; but grief makes one hour ten.
    • Scene III

  • All places that the eye of heaven visits,
    Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
    Teach thy necessity to reason thus;
    There is no virtue like necessity.
    • John of Gaunt, Scene III

  • O, who can hold a fire in his hand,
    By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?
    Or cloy the hungry edge of appetite,
    By bare imagination of a feast?
    Or wallow naked in December snow,
    By thinking on fantastic summer’s heat?
    O, no! the apprehension of the good
    Gives but the greater feeling to the worse:
    Fell sorrow's tooth doth never rankle more,
    Than when it bites, but lanceth not the sore.
    • Bolingbroke, Scene III

Act II

  • They say, the tongues of dying men,
    Enforce attention, like deep harmony:
    Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain.
    • John of Gaunt, Scene I

  • The setting sun, and music at the close,
    As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,
    Writ in remembrance, more than things long past.
    • John of Gaunt, Scene I
  • His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
    For violent fires soon burn out themselves.
    • John of Gaunt, Scene I
  • This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
    This earth of Majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demi-paradise;
    This fortress built by Nature for herself,
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    Or as a moat defensive to a house,
    Against the envy of less happier lands;
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
    This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
    Fear'd by their breed, and famous by their birth.
    • John of Gaunt, Scene I
  • The ripest fruit first falls.
    • King Richard, Scene I
  • Evermore thanks, the exchequer of the poor.
    • Bolingbroke, Scene III


  • Eating the bitter bread of banishment.
    • Bolingbroke, Scene I

  • He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines.
    • King Richard, Scene II

  • Not all the water in the rough rude sea
    Can wash the balm from an anointed king;
    The breath of worldly men cannot depose
    The deputy elected by the Lord.
    • King Richard, Scene II

  • O, call back yesterday, bid time return.
    • Salisbury, Scene II

  • No matter where. Of comfort no man speak:
    Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
    Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes
    Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth;
    Let's choose executors, and talk of wills:
    And yet not so — for what can we bequeath
    Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
    Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke's,
    And nothing can we call our own but death;
    And that small model of the barren earth
    Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
    For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground,
    And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
    How some have been depos'd, some slain in war,
    Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos'd;
    Some poison'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd;
    All murder'd — for within the hollow crown
    That rounds the mortal temples of a king,
    Keeps Death his court: and there the antic sits,
    Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;
    Allowing him a breath, a little scene
    To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;
    Infusing him with self and vain conceit —
    As if this flesh, which walls about our life,
    Were brass impregnable — and, humour'd thus,
    Comes at the last, and with a little pin
    Bores through his castle wall, and — farewell king!
    • King Richard, Scene II

  • He is come to ope
    The purple testament of bleeding war.
    • King Richard, Scene III

  • And my large kingdom, for a little grave,
    A little, little grave, an obscure grave.
    • King Richard, Scene III

Act IV

  • And there, at Venice, gave
    His body to that pleasant country’s earth,
    And his pure soul unto his captain Christ,
    Under whose colours he had fought so long.
    • Bishop of Carlisle, Scene I

  • You may my glories and my state depose,
    But not my griefs; still am I king of those.
    • King Richard, Scene I

  • O, that I were a mockery king of snow.
    • King Richard, Scene I

  • I am greater than a king:
    For when I was a king, my flatterers
    Were then but subjects; being now a subject,
    I have a king here to my flatterer.
    Being so great, I have no need to beg.
    • King Richard, Scene I

Act V

  • But soft, but see, or rather do not see,
    My fair rose wither: yet look up, behold,
    That you in pity may dissolve to dew,
    And wash him fresh again with true-love tears.
    • Queen, Scene I

  • As in a theatre, the eyes of men,
    After a well-grac'd actor leaves the stage,
    Are idly bent on him that enters next,
    Thinking his prattle to be tedious.
    • Duke of York, Scene II

  • It is as hard to come as for a camel
    To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.
    • King Richard, Scene V; variant: "To thread the postern of a needle’s eye."

  • Thoughts tending to content, flatter themselves
    That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,
    Nor shall not be the last.
    • King Richard, Scene V

  • I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
    • King Richard, Scene V

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